When I first began listening to Porchpuddles, the last record from Dylan Shearer, I could tell that something special was brewing in his craft. Now, a few years later, we come to Garagearray, and I don’t even have the words to describe what he’s accomplished. It’s an album so special at every turn that you’re not likely to hear anything of this sort this year.
“Time to Go” opens Garagearray with a piano ballad with Shearer’s deep vocal tones draped all across it. What’s interesting to me is that despite the structure of the song appearing quite traditionally, there’s a twist to his approach. Where others before him would simply press forward, and continue the song as normal, Dylan slows things to a crawl on various occasions, encouraging listeners to hang on every note. The melody he creates at 2:57 is so special that it’s possibly my favorite moment in music this year. Then he brings in “Meadow Mines” to offer another intimate performance for listeners. The recording is done in a manner that allows you to hear the buzz of the strings in the mics, while Dylan performs with his forlorn angelic voice. Ugh. That voice.
While I typically identify with clarity in the vocals, there’s something enchanting about the way Dylan Shearer sings. Take the track, “Garagearray Lookout,” where his vocals hold the track together. When he sings, he seems to connect melodies together, rather than worry about proper enunciation. It brings about an emotion that can’t easily be described, but suffice it to say, you’ll be sucked into every whispy note. Another such example can be found in “Everyone Accept You” where it sounds as if the vocals were meant merely as an instrument, almost harmonically mumbled in the distance. It might not be for everyone, but it works for my ears.
I think one of the possible detractors on Garagearray might be that as a listener, you’re asked to completely immerse yourself in listening to the record. You can’t haphazardly skip through songs; each track has something unique to offer the listener. You’ll probably waiver back and forth over your favorite, as I have, but you simply don’t want to skip ahead. If you have the dedication, then you’ll find pop masterpieces in wait during the latter half of the album. “Before You Know It (Its Over)” is a six minute adventure of rising and falling melodies, carefully designed to follow the careful guitar work and additional musical accents. Shearer follows it up with another spectacular piano-laced ballad, “Barely by the Waterslide.” There’s a guitar sliding throughout too, running parallel to the pitch Dylan’s created with his voice; I’m sorry, but moments like this just don’t exist often enough. It then comes to a sublime end with “Tough on Grease (Carillon),” which might be the most pop-centric song on the album, if we’re to listen to the suggestions from the guitar.
The current musical climate often curates music that’s disposable. You listen, you love, you discard. But, if you’re looking for a record that’s worth sinking your teeth into for the duration of a lifetime, then I couldn’t think of a better piece of work than Garragearray. The musical stylings are current, yet timeless. The structure and progression of each song is dynamic, yet far from ordinary. Dylan Shearer, simply put, is at the top of his game, and that only makes you better by listening to it.
The album is available now from Castelface/Empty Cellar Records.